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back to article Microsoft awaits European Court decision

The European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg will rule on Monday whether the guilty verdict against Microsoft should be overturned. The software giant was found guilty of anti-competitive practices in 2004. The Court ruled Microsoft was in breach of article 82 of the EC Treaty for abusing its dominant position in the PC …

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Common sense lacking within a demanding populace.

Take a business that sells physical goods and offers a showroom to allow the public to browse and make purchases. Do you give the general public access to the warehouse behind the showroom?

Take the warehouse behind the showroom, this place deals with order fulfillment. Couriers are given special access to controlled areas of the warehouse so that the couriers can provide their intended service to the business. Do you give the couriers access to the administrative offices above the showroom and warehouse?

Environments need to be controlled by the business that creates them, otherwise things go wrong. Poor practices by third parties in an unregulated environment can lead to disastrous consequences.

Okay how about another analogy? You rent an appartment in a block of flats. Part of your agreement with the landlord will prohibit you from accessing certain areas of the block of flats, examples such as closets storing maintenance equipment or roof cavities (lofts or attics) come to mind. You are denied access to those areas for your own good and the good of others within that block of flats, regardless of what your personal opinion on the matter may be.

Some of you may feel that you have every right to explore every last bit of functionality included within the server operating systems you use. If you are one of these people, then please start making demands on all other commodities that regulate access to certain features or areas. You won't get very far, but it would be interesting to see the same peculiar logic derived from law applied to the software world becoming apparent in more common aspects of our daily lives. It is somewhat amusing to consider the consequences, and in the midst of that mirth the realisation of the implications to the software world are revealed.

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@ Craig

Your analogy breaks down because Servers are not open and commonly understood platforms to which certain areas are restricted - as in your apartment block. Instead consider the following analogy:

Each apartment block you consider to rent has plug sockets for power and telecommunications. Some of them adhere to open standards - the common three pin power socket, BT socket (if you live in the UK) or RJ-10 for telephone, and RJ-45 for data. These are well known and the standard is available everywhere, so you can plug in any appliance that needs these sockets. The wiring behind them is kept away from you (do YOU know the new Europe-wide colouring scheme for mains wiring? Or the standard connections for RJ-45? I thought not), but you know the common interface.

Now consider an apartment block where the owner decides (arbitrarily) the size and shape of each socket. So if you want to plug in a fridge or a computer, you have to ask the owner to fit the right plug (which will then be hiddne behind a blanking plate, so you can't discover the shape of the plug for future reference). And what if the same owner built a newer block, where the sockets changed again, so you couldn't even move your appliances to the new block without getting the owner to refit the plugs (at great expense). And what if he didn't like the brand of fridge you wanted to use, and so refused to fit the correct plugs on your behalf? That, as I see it, is a much closer analogy to the MS Server API issue. No-one is suggesting that the source code be made available, just the methods for interfacing with the server OS efficiently.

And to extend the metaphor, what if the rent included a hefty charge to use the television provided with the apartment - even if you replaced it with a model you prefer? Surely you would like the option to take the television or not?

No, I think the EU got it right, assuming they can stick to their guns.

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Microsoft the overlord

Maybe we are forgetting the bigger issue here. Microsoft as the ever present OVERLORD who does not mind stomping on everyone who gets in its way. The trouble is that you have to hunt for which law they broke to actually make a charge. Its like Blackmail. Its very hard to charge someone unless they actually release the blackmail information. But Blackmailing someone is still a crime.

en

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Useless twits

These useless US/European antitrust commissions are all run by some disgruntled user who's PC crashed once. What's the use of removing Media player when it's only gonna get reinstalled along with the rest of the media players needed to get the content on the web. And if the rival server creator’s products are so good why do they need to communicate with the “inferior” windows servers’ anywho, I don't care if some shit IBM developers can't make head nor tail of the MSDN docs.

The judges in these cases are clueless when it comes to software and the people who initiate them are dicks, just let Microsoft get on with creating great products that are easy to use and so we can get our work done and go home early.

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@ Stuart @ Craig

Stuart, your analogy could only have better if you mentioned that your landlord also owned 93.6% of all apartments world-wide.

As for Craig, this might seem alien, but the world doesn't exist to create a better Microsoft.

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Anonymous Coward

The EU got it wrong with Media player

They were taking the view that the software was the problem and placed restrictions on the distribution of that software.

The software is NOT the problem. The problem is the proprietary codecs.

Why do MS give away WMP for free with Windows? It's so they can make their files formats more popular. If they make them popular enough this has two impacts:

1. Other suppliers will pay MS to use their codecs

2. Users will have to use an MS platform (Windows) to get access to some content

Both of these are massive abuses of monopoly position as, if MS did not have a monopoly, they would not have the ability to force their codecs onto the market. Noone would use WMA as there are better alternatives around.

What the EU should have done is allowed MS to ship WMP, but only if open standard codecs were the defaults (and as long as no future update turned this off). If WMP defaulted to (say) MP3 and FLAC, then people could chose to use the proprietary codecs if they wanted. That's real choice.

Keith

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@ SpitefulGOD

Sorry, you miss the point completely - and it's people with your attitude that have allowed the problem to appear in the first place.

Taking the server APIs stuff first ...

IF, and only IF, Microsoft only had a modest share of the market then you would be right - people would choose their servers and Microsoft would be forced to play by open standards. Just like the current situation where people expect the 'rest of the world' to work with Microsoft products, it wouldbe a case of people expecting Microsoft products to work with 'other stuff'.

But, Micrsoft have such a dominant position that they are able to impose their own networking standards which are not documented. Thus, it is hard for anyone to make a server that will work properly with a Microsoft desktop and/or other microsoft servers. The effect is such that the market is distorted and there is no effective competition - as in users with Microsoft desktops have to buy Microsoft servers to serve them, and if they have Microsoft servers then using non-Microsoft desktops is hard.

ALL the judgement requires is that Microsoft publish details of how the network protocols work so that other people can build compatible servers etc<period>

Microsoft spun this by telling outright lies and claiming that this required them to publish their source code - complete and utter rubbish. The spec only has to say that "message type X has these fields which have <waffle, waffle> meaning" - how you write software that generates and receives message type X is completely separate. What is REALLY worrying is that Microsoft claim to have spent many thousands of man hours creating this documentation - which tells me one thing, that they didn't have it documented at all !

Am I the only one who thinks it's a rather bad idea to have so much of the worlds infrastructure reliant on protocols that were never documented ?

I sincerely hope the judges side with the EU on this one, if they let Microsoft off the hook then we can kiss goodby to ANY concept of competition for a great many years - and not just in computers.

No as to the media player stuff. I do think the commission was wrong on this. I can see Real's complaint, but look at all the other stuff that ultimately ends up getting bundled iinto OS's ? A better solution IMHO would have been to require Microsoft to include Reals player on an equal footing with their own - ie if their own player is installed then the Real one must also be, if their own has a desktop icon then there must be one for Real's as well.

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Archeology

<quote>What is REALLY worrying is that Microsoft claim to have spent many thousands of man hours creating this documentation - which tells me one thing, that they didn't have it documented at all !</quote>

Actually, Microsoft have already declared that they don't know how their protocols work (ROFL);

Newsmaker: Microsoft exec takes on services, Google (Published: June 15, 2006, 4:00 AM PDT) -- http://news.com.com/Microsoft+exec+takes+on+services%2C+Google/2008-1010_3-6083894.html

[...]

Let's talk a bit about your responsibility for technical documentation related to the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree. Is the documentation up to snuff now?

Muglia: We were confused about this, and frankly everybody was confused about this...The feedback was clear from the government agencies and others that we had to rethink this. When we went in and took a look, we realized that we thought of this as doing documentation and we put people who are quite qualified at doing technical documentation on the job. But it ain't that. It's an engineering project. It's especially an engineering job because it isn't a core part of our development process yet. It will become part of the core process moving forward.

But the first piece of work that needs to be done is an archeology project to go through the protocols that are in the system, some of which date back 15-plus years, many of which (were written) by engineers that are no longer with the company, and we've had to pull quite a few of our key engineers onto this and they're working to get standardized formats in place and all of the basics. We're making really good progress on it and we are working as hard as is humanly possible and we'll be doing that for a bit of time now.

[...]

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